Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has recently submitted its 2023-2026 Phase One General Rate Case (GRC) which proposes a significant upsurge in energy rates. Over a four-year period, the proposal would impose a 45 percent increase in rates. PG&E has indicated that the increase is necessary to make upgrades to the electric system and improve wildfire safety. President and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association, Roger Isom said agriculture is not in a position to take on added energy costs.
“To people who are paying the highest electric rates in the country, that’s unacceptable. We’re non-competitive with the rest of the country and you’re going to put a 45 percent increase in just four years on top of that?” said Isom. “They’re absolutely burying the ratepayers – the homeowners, the businesses – we simply cannot afford this.”
Energy rates that are initially proposed can often be reduced after some negation. A settlement has been made somewhere in the middle in years past. However, Isom points out that if that were to be the case with the latest GRC, it would still have a devastating effect. “You’re talking about a 22.5 percent increase. We can’t do it. There’s nothing left. There are no margins left to pay for that kind of increase,” said Isom.
Improvements to increase wildfire resiliency and overall safety are needed, as evidenced by the increasing frequency of catastrophic wildfires. However, there are questions as to why those upgrades have not already been made with other recent energy rate increases. Isom points to PG&E executive bonuses and shareholder dividends as absorbing an exorbitant amount of money that should be invested in infrastructure upgrades. As negotiations regarding the latest GRC get underway, Isom is calling on the agriculture industry to get involved.
“This is time for the ag industry to step up and say, ‘enough is enough,’” Isom noted. “I don’t care if you farm two acres, 2,000 acres, or 20,000 acres, you better be at the hearings testifying, you better be writing letters, you better be contacting your legislators.”